Friday, April 22, 2011

The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman: Opening the airlock

I have seen probably 20 or more free-jazz performances that quickly ramped up to a blaring peak, stayed there for a half hour or so and petered out. As a listener, it's hard not to grow numb to this kind of thing after a while.

Last night's 10:30pm Blue Note set by the Bad Plus with Joshua Redman climaxed with an expressionist freak-out, but crucially, it was brief and strategic. The band was playing Reid Anderson's "Silence Is the Question." They gradually climbed from sparse placidness to a shrieking, stampeding summit—two to three minutes long, I'd say—that was maybe the most concentrated blast of intensity I've ever heard at a live jazz performance. (Redman, especially, was merciless, easily holding his own among my collected memories of witnessing players like Br√∂tzmann or Mats Gustafsson.) It was quite honestly shocking on a straight-up visceral level, as though the quartet had suddenly opened an airlock and let the terrible void of deep space rush in. The perfect sneak attack: not beating an audience over the head for a hour, but taking them on a long, varied, generally pleasant tour (the rest of the set was good—with Redman, overall, coming off as deeply engaged and thrilled to be there—especially versions of Ethan Iverson's "Guilty" and Anderson's "You Are," but the finale was on a whole other level) and then depositing them without warning at Satan's feet. I looked around the club, feeling almost sorry for any tourists who had accidentally stumbled in.

A quick, steady decrescendo, and the set was over. "That was the one," I saw Dave King say to Anderson, which I hope means they were recording. "That last part was perfect jazz," said Laal. Yes, it was.


Matt said...

Really enjoy your blog. Thanks for this great description! Wish I could have been there. I'm so glad TBP has stuck around long enough to prove the doubters wrong.

peskypesky said...

i saw the second set on Tuesday, and it was fantastic. i'm going to try to go see them once more.

Leroy said...

I saw TBP do Silence Is The Question in Bristol (the UK one) and it blew me away. One of the most awesome performances of any music from any genre I have ever witnessed. I had no idea who they were at that point, but that performance made me a life long devotee that's followed their every move since. I'm happy not to be alone!

Great blog, BTW. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I was at the Saturday show for both sets and they finished the second set with another version "The Sound of Silence". I have seen the band over a dozen times and have been familiar with King's playing 7 years before The Bad Plus performed - during the Happy Days in MPLS. As others have said the Bad Plus are one of the "communities" of musicians who are making a real contribution to new music and it is always interesting to hear what they will do next. Nevertheless, the addition of Redmam to the mix not only added a dynamic force to the interpretation of compositions that the band has been performing as a trio, but also provided an element of style and emotion that though always present with the trio reached a level I have not previously seen. If these shows were not being recorded for release then the Jazz world will never get to share the transformative experience that those of us who thrive on live performances of this caliber got to hear and feel during the last week at the Blue Note. David.